Personalization has come a long way from only addressing the customer by name in a direct marketing email that arrives in your inbox – of all the digital strategies being talked about in the race to better customer experience, and thereby setting your brand apart from the competitors, personalization has now grown to be the most paramount.
It has been shown time and again that personalization drives engagement and builds relationships with the customer, making it one of the most important tools in a marketer’s toolbox. A whopping 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize them by name, remember their preferences, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations1. A customer that is seen and heard and feels special is one that will return.
As opposed to the customization of products or services to suit a particular individual, personalization is the tailoring of an experience based on the customer’s previous buying behavior and preferences. The holy grail is to offer the customer an intelligent and contextual, and therefore superior customer experience, which in effect creates more value for the business.
In the past, marketing communications was mostly one-way. The new approach using data to ground insights begins a conversation with the customer.
The underpinning of personalization is data. Most of this data already exists within an organization in the form of the technology that enables every sale – sales and support information can be folded into customer data platforms (CDPs) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, unstructured data in the form of positive or negative feedback, reviews and social commentary consolidated into reputation management systems – all that data just needs to be harnessed, analyzed and put to work not just as the end of the shopping funnel but throughout the customer journey.
Here are a few paths to personalization of the customer experience:
- Personalized home page, navigation, and copy: New visitors need to be targeted with tailored messages, pages, and navigation compared to returning visitors or regular customers because they aren’t very familiar with the brand or the website. Personalized pop-ups and greetings are one way to do this. Encouraging social sign-ins are another. By understanding target customers’ pain points, interests, and problems, you can also target relevant copy for different segments, thereby increasing conversion. Knowing device types also means mobile users can be offered a different experience compared to those using a tablet or laptop.
- Location targeting/geofencing: Visitors from different countries are segmented and these segments to allow for personalized pages and experiences. A US apparel brand could have different sizes, not to mention currencies, compared to the UK site. Geolocation targeting also enables daily or seasonal weather-related personalization. One new development is geofencing which puts a ‘virtual fence’ around a physical location. Geofencing triggers a command to the mobile phone when an individual enters or leaves a geofence. Whole Foods launched geofences around their competitors’ locations. When a customer using the Whole Foods app came into or left the geofence, they would receive ads with store-specific offers2. The campaign is said to have had a post-click conversion rate which is more than 3x the industry average.
- Predictive personalization: Amazon, followed by Youtube and Netflix, made the ‘Recommended for you’ feature famous. These days, many brands suggest options while the customer is buying or even at checkout to upsell their products and increase average order value. Uniqlo measures neurotransmitters in their UMood kiosks to gauge customers’ reactions as they are shown different clothing items in kiosks. The AI algorithm then uses that data to recommend products3.
- Retargeting: Google Ads offers brands the ability to remarket their product to visitors who visit their website in other locations. Since they have already shown interest in the brand, retargeting offers another avenue to complete the sale. Conversely, personalization also means that the transition from clicking from an ad to get to your website is seamless and the text matches to suit.
- Category specific offers: Just as with initial contact, segmentation offers a chance to target specific offers to specific customers. One effective example is how Sephora used to announce all their products to all their customers, but now they send only relevant information with their behavioral-based email program4.
- Gamification: Using gamification in your brand marketing strategy helps brands know their customers better through features such as quizzes or creating user profiles and avatars. Awarding points is another method can keep consumers loyal. Makeups and skincare brands such Sephora’s skincare quiz or Roadrunner Sports’ “Which Nike shoe fits your personality” are great examples of gamifying your commerce experience to drive return traffic5.
- Video tutorials and inspiration: Offering how-to videos and tutorials post-sale turns customers into repeat customers. Technology has made it easy to offer personalization even in video and editing techniques mean that text in a video can be customized for easy consumption. Inspiration areas are used by many brands’ websites to guide customers through their product line.
- Lead generators: Displaying offers free trials or discounts tactically are a useful feature to generate customer leads and keep them on your page. An exit discount pop-up box is one way to do this.
- Omnichannel delivery: Features such as ‘Continue watching’ and ‘Watch from the beginning’ made popular by Netflix are also being used by retail brands that have a presence on different channels. Headless CMSes can enable shoppers to switch between devices for a seamless experience while also remembering their preferences. Neiman Marcus, for example, remembers your size when you return6.
- Chat and customer support: AI and machine learning is being used especially with chatbots which can gather data and segment customers, especially if you don’t have the resources to offer round-the-clock support. Information and predictive analysis can be pulled up for customer-facing employees for an enhanced customer service experience.
More brands are offering hyper-personalized experiences at every customer touchpoint. With enough data, customers can be shoehorned into each segment of one. However, personalization can make the marketing mix more complex and such complexity is both time and resource intensive. Therefore, A/B testing is a key factor to check efficacy before embarking on individual personalization strategies.
Furthermore, using customer data for the purposes of curation and interaction is treading a fine line – brands would reap the benefits if they were to make their processes transparent, respect data privacy, and safeguard customers’ data while doing so. In the end, personalization is as much about customer behavior and their needs as it is about their data.
1. Accenture 2018 Personalization Pulse Check. https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-83/Accenture-Pulse-Check-Infographic.pdf
2. Thinknear Location Score Index, Q4 2017. http://info.thinknear.com/rs/835-JWB-681/images/Thinknear_Location_Score_Index_Q4_2017.pdf?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=&utm_term=&utm_content=
3. AI In Retail: How Tech Is Changing The Customer Experience, Forbes.com, March 26, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/03/26/ai-in-retail-how-tech-is-changing-the-customer-experience/?sh=47f31dc1958a
4. Accelerating Agility: eCommerce Marketing Lessons from Sephora, Bluecore.com, https://www.bluecore.com/blog/accelerating-agility-ecommerce-marketing-sephora/
5. Roadrunnersports.com, https://www.roadrunnersports.com/blog/quiz-which-nike-shoe-best-fits-your-personality-free-rn-or-free-rn-flyknit/
6. 5 Outstanding Omnichannel Retail Examples In Fashion, Intelistyle.com, https://www.intelistyle.com/omnichannel-retail-best-examples-fashion/